Cupping – Olympic Pseudoscience
By Steven Novella
From Science Based Medicine
In conclusion, this overview of SRs [systematic reviews] suggests that cupping may be effective for reducing pain. The evidence is insufficient for other indications. All SRs are based on primary studies with a high risk of bias. Therefore, considerable uncertainty remains about the therapeutic value of cupping.His review, and my reading of the published research, are very consistent with the typical pattern of biased research into a treatment that does not work. We see lots of small and poor quality studies, the kinds that are almost guaranteed to generate false positive results.
The higher quality studies tend to be negative. There may be a residue of positive studies dealing with subjective symptoms, because those are the hardest to control for rigorously. We never see an objective positive outcome.
Further, positive results tend to cluster within highly biased research groups. Ernst points out that most of the positive studies and reviews on cupping come from China. There is good reason to suspect overwhelming bias in such studies, and previous reviews have shown, for example, that 100% of acupuncture studies published in China were positive. Such uniformly positive results are statistically impossible without systematic bias….